Michel Gondry (segment "Interior
Description: This triptych of short films about Asia's most misunderstood metropolis features three directors known for cinematically capturing the uncanny, and showing the individual oddity and anxiety that lurks beneath the surface of our smooth social interaction. While the two Western filmmakers, Michel Gondry and Leos Carax, simply relocate their favorite themes to Tokyo, the Korean director Bong Joon-ho more successfully allows the city to dictate the style and content of his segment.
Three directors, three films, three reasons to rethink moving to Tokyo: You can't find a place to live, there are earthquakes and a weird goblin may leap from a sewer and grab your sandwich. "Tokyo!" assigns the French filmmakers Michel Gondry and Leos Carax and the Korean-born Bong Joon-ho to create their own visions of the megalopolis, which would seem to spawn oddly adapted inhabitants.
The best of the three is "Merde," the centerpiece by Carax, a director whose films are willfully, sometimes successfully, odd. He stars Denis Lavant as a haywire subterranean denizen who pops off a sewer lid, scrambles to the sidewalk, lurches down the street and rudely assaults pedestrians. He grabs cigarettes, sandwiches and arms, alarms a baby, terrorizes the populace and disappears into another manhole.Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE
The image quality seems limited by the MPEG-2 compression that was used. There are flashes of exceptional color and surprising detail but overall on Blu-ray the visuals are not as stellar as we have seen from most other transfers in this new 1080P format. Carax 'Merde' is particularly grainy with visible noise in the darker sequences. Joon-ho Bong's 2.35:1 Shaking Tokyo tends to look the most professional showing some depth to the image with more crisp detail and Gondry's Interior Design falls somewhere in between. I wouldn't say it is poor but it doesn't consistently exhibit the tightness that some have come to expect from hi-def. It's certainly watchable but the 'wow' factor is almost non-existent. It looks more like a strong DVD image but this is not necessarily such a bad thing as you can still enjoy the three films in a very clean, watchable, transfer.
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Compared to the video transfer the audio is far more impacting. You get two HD choices - a reasonable 2.0 channel but the DTS-HD Master 7.1 at 5099 kbps has some notable separationswith rumbling bass (in Tokyo Shaking) and decent high end for the effect noises and limited music that was used. The subtitles are large and easily visible but as an example of an issue that I had in Tokyo Shaking was in the description of "hikikomoris" (the Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive individuals who have chosen to withdraw from social life) - it was far too small to be read on my system. It was in English and Japanese - so the subtitles weren't cued to translate. My Momitsu tells me this disc is region FREE - playable worldwide.
In one massive 17 Gig file we have three 'Making of' pieces and three Director Interviews all tied together, running over 2 hours in HD but the aspect ratio is slightly stretched and distorted. There are optional subtitles and while the comments from the 3 directors seem fairly frank, with some behind the scenes material, it still appeared scattered as if thrown together to some degree. It does have optional subtitles. I don't know that too many would watch it from start to finish but luckily you have the option, via the menu, to choose the specific segment you might be more keen on. There is a 2-minute fade-in/fade-out photo gallery, an HD trailer for the film and some Liberation Entertainment previews.
While I'm a pretty big fan of Carax (The Lovers on the Bridge), I differ from Ebert in that I found his "Merde" segment the least enjoyable of the three. I probably liked Shaking Tokyo the best. I think my expectations of the films and Blu-ray weren't really met with a few digital production facets being limited. It was reasonably easy to fall into the mode of accepting these films as humorous and very cool - and they are enjoyable but perhaps purchasers should temper their expectations, especially in regards to the Blu-ray. It might help achieve a more satisfactory level of entertainment. If forced to decide - I'd probably give this a thumbs down.
June 25th, 2009
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be
it, but film will always be my first love and I list my
favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible
Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Gary W. Tooze